The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is 100 pounds worth of supernatural elements stuffed into a 10 pound bag. Also shoved in is a wispy romance, clichéd twists in the family tree and exposition heavy dialogue which makes an IKEA manual look primitive. The film is cluttered, kooky and completely bonkers.
After the disappearance of her mother (Lena Headley), Clary (Lilly Collins) learns that she descends from a line of angelic warriors called Shadow Hunters who protect the world from evil.
The name of the game for 130 minutes is; “who, what, where, why”. Screenwriter Jessica Postigo Paquette (adapting the novel by Cassandra Clare) makes sure everything is explained in extreme detail, and it’s an endurance test of the fantastical: Angels, werewolves, vampires, demons, witches and snore…sorry, more. The concept of a secret war against evil is interesting and the origins of the Shadow Hunters feels legendary enough to prop up the story, but it’s all wasted on ridiculous romantic triangle sub-plotting that becomes super creepy, and a Shadow Hunter gone bad with the least scary villain name: Valentine.
Outside of dropping major plot points the dialogue is awful. Clary is questioned over her lapsed memory at one point, to which she replies, “I can’t remember anything worth forgetting”. The creativity well also seems to be running dry in making the mystic world seem more entrancing; non-magical beings are called “the mundane” and underworld creatures are named “underworlders”.
Director Harald Zwart, tries to make things exciting with each magical reveal and it works most of the time thanks to great visual effects. Zwart tries to steer the film towards serious territory with an okay action sequence involving a raid on a vampire nest, but it mostly ends up being completely silly. A scene where Clary goes “Macgyver” on a demon in her house and shields herself from an explosion in a fridge is terrible but hilarious, and a moment where she has to dress like a prostitute to go and see warlock who wears no pants is worth a giggle at the film’s expense. Once Clary decides that drawing a topless sketch of her Shadow Hunter love interest is more important than finding her missing mother, it’s obvious that the “instrument” in, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, is one associated with serious head trauma.
Collins submits herself to an amazing amount of humiliation and is a trooper for being able to keep a straight face. Sadly, it’s the same for the supporting cast that boasts Headley, CCH Pounder, Kevin Durand, Jared Harris and Johnathan Rhys Meyers.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones may be the most unintentionally funny film of year that doubles as a torturous supernatural melodrama.
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies